This party draws super VIPs

SEATTLE - They gathered Saturday for lunch to honor the oldest member of a very exclusive club.

It has only seven members, and they all make sure that no matter what important things are on their schedule, or where they are, they make it to this event. It is the seven living governors of this state, and on Saturday, although using a wheelchair after breaking his hip in September, there was Al Rosellini, about to turn 100 on Thursday.

The governors were remarkably cordial and friendly with each other, considering a good portion had run against each other for office, sometimes in nasty races.

But time passes and the heated remarks don’t seem as important.

“We all share the same thing,” said Dan Evans, 84, the Republican governor from 1965 to 1977, about knowing just what it’s like to be a governor. “It’s welded us together.”

It was Evans who beat Rosellini, a Democrat, when the latter ran for a third term after first being elected in 1957. Then, when Evans himself ran for a third term, Rosellini tried a comeback, and Evans once again won.

Now the two men greeted each other like old friends, which they are.

Said Rosellini, “You fight bitterly at the time, but then you go on, pick up and forget.”

The governor, or Al as he is often called, was more than willing to pose for photos, crack a joke, lend a smile, talk some politics and just plain enjoy being with those who showed up.

The story goes that in 1957 he was 20 minutes late to his own inaugural ball. His wife, Ethel, who passed away in 2002, explained then that they were delayed because her husband stopped to listen to some problems of the Capitol’s groundskeeper.

Although looking a bit gaunt after the hip break, and sometimes halting in his speech, Rosellini was quite lucid.

Until September, Rosellini was going every day to his office in Georgetown; up until a couple of years ago he was driving there himself from his apartment in Madison Park.

“I’m still a lawyer, still qualified in doing law business,” Rosellini said. “I was more or less discussing different legislative and business issues.”

His son Al Rosellini Jr., 57, a Seattle businessman, said the family finally took the elder Rosellini’s car keys away after he banged up his Cadillac a few too many times.

“It was nothing of importance,” said the governor about the dents. Still, he agreed it was best to let others drive.

After breaking his hip, he moved to the Skyline at First Hill assisted living facility, where the party was held.

This is now the seventh or eighth year this exclusive party has been held for Rosellini. Nobody could remember the exact number.

The party is organized by former Gov. Gary Locke, now U.S. secretary of commerce. Locke, governor from 1997 to 2005, was also born Jan. 21, but 40 years after Rosellini.